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LGBT Employees Still Face Discrimination at Work

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Despite recent strides toward equal treatment, it's still risky for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender (LGBT) people to come out at work.

That's the finding of research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, which today (July 26) released a report summarizing academic studies and other documented evidence of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the negative impact such discrimination has on LGBT people. 

This report shows that LGBT people continue to frequently report discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

The report finds that evidence of employment discrimination against LGBT people has been consistently documented over the past 40 years in both the private and public sectors. In particular, the study focuses on studies that have been conducted since 2005 and it presents new data from the 2008 General Social Survey, a national probability survey representative of the U.S. population. 

Results from that 2008 survey provide recent evidence of discrimination regarding sexual orientation.  Among LGB respondents to the survey, 42 percent had experienced employment discrimination at some point in their lives, and 27 percent had experienced employment discrimination during the 5-year period before the survey.

Data from the General Social Survey also found that employment discrimination is more common among LGB employees who are open about their sexual orientation in the workplace than among those who are not — 38 percent of employees who were out in the workplace had experienced discrimination in the 5-year period before the survey, compared with 10 percent of those who were not.

"This new data shows that it's still risky to come out about being LGBT in the workplace," said study co-author Christy Mallory. "Therefore, it's not surprising that the GSS data also show that one-third of LGB employees are not open about their sexual orientation to anyone in the workplace."

These results are consistent with findings from other recent studies that reveal a continuing pattern of employment discrimination against LGBT people, the researchers said.

"Recent studies show that pervasiveness of discrimination against transgender people in hiring proves to have a devastating impact," said Brad Sears, executive director of  the Williams Institute. "The devastating results of this discrimination are confirmed by the high rates of poverty and unemployment documented by surveys of the transgender community."

Not only does research document the pervasiveness of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, but also the negative impact of discrimination on LGBT people.  Because of discrimination, and fear of discrimination, many LGBT employees hide their identities, are paid less and have fewer employment opportunities than non-LGBT employees.

"Research shows that LGBT employees who have experienced employment discrimination, or fear discrimination, have higher levels of psychological distress and health-related problems, less job satisfaction and higher rates of absenteeism, and are more likely to contemplate quitting than LGBT employees who have not experienced or do not fear discrimination," says Ilan Meyer, Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy.

"In contrast, supervisor, co-worker and organizational support for LGB employees was found to have a positive impact on employees in terms of job satisfaction, life satisfaction and outness at work," Meyer said.

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